Thursday, November 02, 2006

Frets On Fire, new computer

One of my reasons for finally getting around to upgrading my computer (see below) was that even indie games are too heavy for my old setup. Luckily this latest gem I came across does work, and it's sweet indeed! Frets On Fire is a simple clone of the hugely successful Guitar Hero series on the consoles. Holding your keyboard like a guitar feels great one you're past the "I can't believe I'm doing this" stage. At least my Apple keyboard works great this way.

New computer

Might as well mention what I ordered and why, since this is the kind of information I looked for in the net for weeks before figuring out what I need. We wanted a rig to last us for the next three or four years in mostly light home use, with forays into graphical applications (Photoshop, InDesign mostly) and gaming. Some care was taken into keeping it upgradeable.

Processor: AMD Athlon 64 X2 4200+ boxed, 2.2GHz, 1MB(2x512) Cache. We settled on a dual-core because it felt like with Vista right around the corner, now would be a good time. Our heaviest resource loads are graphics applications, which could really benefit from better multitasking. I simply picked a dual-core processor in the mid-range price, landing at 215€.

Motherboard: Abit AN9 32X AM2 nF590-SLI. We needed an AMD M2 socket for the processor and the price difference between the recent nForce 590 and ageing nForce 4 chipsets wasn't huge. This one cost 180€. Reviews suggested that this board or one of its variants was a good choice for a powerful, upgradeable setup. I wanted the AM2 socket for future-proofing, too; it seems like socket 939 is phased out byt the time we'd need a new processor. It could be I went overboard with the motherboard and it doesn't help with the next upgrade after all, but I like knowing that the base of the rig isn't shaky. I went for SLI because I wasn't going to buy a high-end graphics processing unit, but I wanted the option to boost GPU power cost-effectively. Oh, and the mobo is passively cooled.

GPU: Club 3D GeForce 7600GS 256MB Silent, PCI-E. The choice in GPU was basically between the GeForce 7600GS and GT. The 7600GT is currently the mass market choice in the around 150€ range. GT is only slightly more expensive and considerably more powerful than the GS, but I really wanted a passively cooled GPU. The GS should be enough for our needs and since it's SLI-capable, I can always just plug in another similar card to boost the power to something approaching the levels of mid to high -end cards (I think). You can get a passively cooled 7600GT, too, but delivery would take several weeks and they cost over 200€, compared to the 120€ for the GS.

Case: HyperCell2 6211L-CA with a 400W power source, at 70€. I did think about purchasing a separate power source as my old computer has an Antec power source which alone cost 70€, but we settled on a cheap case which looked good.

Memory: Kingston 1024MB (1GB) 533MHz DDR2, PC2-4200, CL4, for 130€. we were tempted by 2 GB, but 1GB felt adequate for now. It can always be added to later.

I won't bore anyone with the DVD toaster and hard drive details, especially since I don't really understand anything about them. I do expect the SATAII HD to feel lightning-fast compared to the IDE (PATA) drive I currently use. Well, as far as "triple-speed" equals "lightning-fast", anyway... I also think we'll get a major reduction in noise, since the thing will only have a processor and power source fan. Well, it may be that we need a case fan, too, but I'm only adding one if necessary.

Expect massive complaining once I get to assembling the thing and find out that nothing fits.

Update (9 November 2006): Some clarifications!

The motherboard is not passively cooled. It just has a heatsink in addition to two small fans. I was distracted by the "Silent OTES Heatpipe" designation. I ended up getting an Abit AN9 32X Fatal1ty AM2 nF590-SLI for the motherboard. It's basically the same board, I can't tell of any major differences between the two.

The case does have one case-fan to begin with.

I also picked up another GPU, as the one I wanted initally wasn't readily available. I got an Asus GF7600GS 512MB PCIE, which is basically the same unit, except with more memory. I'm slightly mystified by the card's performance in tests, as it routinely rates lower than the 256MB variant. Oh well, runs well enough.

The SATA2 hard drive is sure fast, and silent. Actually the more silent HD and optical drive are maybe a bigger thing than more silent fans would be.

I'm thinking about overclocking, too, since the Athlon 64 X2 4200+ AM2 should go up to 2,9 GHZ with ease, with just air-cooling. I don't want to risk my new hardware, though, so we'll see. If performance becomes an issue.

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